Friday, November 9, 2012

Phosphorus: Who Would Have Guessed?

We remember (perhaps) from our chemistry classes that phosphorus is one of the primary elements. I do not recall how important phosphorus is in the human physiology, but in 1896 they really did not understand.

Looking for an obituary in the Spokesman-Review for 14 October 1896, I came upon this teeny little bit:  "Phosphorus In The Brain. The human brain contains a considerable proportion of phosphorus, varying from 1/20th to 1/30th of the whole mass. If the average weight of the brain be taken at 47 and 1/2 ounces it will then count phosphorus as amounting to 1 and 1/2 ounces. Phosphorus is found to be almost entirely wanting in the brains of idiots."

And how, I wonder, did they know that?


Miriam said...

They did autopsies on both normal and mentally retarded people's brains and compared them.

Charles Hansen said...

I have always liked reading the pre 1900 newspapers, so many interesting articles.